U.S. National Parks, USA Travel

Glacier National Park | Exploring Montana

Exploring Glacier National Park was an incredible experience for myself during 2020- the year of the Covid-19 Pandemic, social distancing, American political unrest and world travel bans. It all sounded so negative and I always felt the need to rise above crazy times that will eventually pass. Even if we did not have the precarious year of 2020, I would have still enjoyed the solace and peacefulness of my road trip into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Myself like many other Americans, packed their bags and hit the road to visit our National Parks, for the same reasons of exploring and just getting the hell out into nature.

McDonald Creek – Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana is located on the Canada – United States border and is adjacent to the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. It was a long worth while drive from Las Vegas! The park encompasses over 1 million acres, which includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains) and over 130 named lakes. It was impossible to explore the whole park in the two to three days we spent in the area, which just gave me more reasons to come back.

In the peace of the moment

Considering Glacier National Park has been taking visitors since last century, the park has several facilities for guests including a lodge inside, cafes, a first aid center, trailheads and a gas station. TIP: I highly advise to make sure your vehicle is fully gassed up prior to entering the park. There are gas stations on the road to the park as well as one in the village at the entrance. Also, pack a picnic lunch, bring snacks and beverages. It will save you time and give you an opportunity to sit and have a peaceful picnic.

There is a vehicle enterance fee that is good for seven days and the rates vary depending on the time of year. I recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 (2021 price), which will allow you into all the National Parks for one year. I have one and love it!

For more park information and fees, please visit their website- Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road

Since we had two full days in the park, my friend and I decided to divide it up with different experiences. On the first day, we rode horseback through the park which was the original way visitors had accessed the park. Then the following day, we explored the park by driving the glorious “Going to the Sun” Road until it ended at Saint Mary’s Lake. That is when we turned around after checking out the crystal blue lake and having a delicious picnic lunch.

— Horseback Riding in Glacier National Park —

If a leisurely horseback ride through Glacier National Park interests you, Swan Mountain Outfitters is the only company that has trail rides inside the park. They offer different packages including hourly rides, full day, camp cookouts and an overnight trip. Our first choice was the camp cookout but since it was not scheduled on the day we needed, we opted for the two hour ride. It was an incredible and peaceful ride though the lush back woods and across the McDonald River.

Swan Mountain Outfitters

While on the ride, you are not allowed to use your cell phone or camera for safety reasons. Although at certain stops many people were quickly taking out their phones, including myself, which is not recommended considering you can drop it at any time. The whole point of the trail ride, without your camera out, is to remember it in your mind and be in the moment.

For horse riding information, please visit Swan Mountain Outfitters – Glacier Division.

— McDonald Creek —

McDonald Creek is the longest stream inside the boundary of Glacier National Park. It stretches over 25 miles and runs along the first part of the “Going to the Sun Road”. It was one of the most picturesque bodies of running water that I have been too. McDonald Creek was stunning, refreshing, calming, relaxing and the list goes on and on.

McDonald Creek is easily accessible from the “Going to the Sun” Road, especially if you are heading west or going back to the West enterance. We had arrived into the park early in the morning, so access going east was great since there was barely anyone on the roads. In mid-day and high-season, the road can become highly congested since it is only a two-laner.

In my Happy Place!

— Going to the Sun Road —

The “Going to the Sun” Road is noted as one of America’s most beautiful drives. From someone who has road tripped through the majority of the states, I will have to agree with that statement. This remarkable road built into the majestic mountains of Montana, was one of the most beautiful drives that I have ever done!

The drive was easy but it would have been easier if I was driving a smaller vehicle, especially when turning blind corners. I was driving an SUV and all was well until we started climbing the cliffs, and not being sure if a vehicle was coming around the rock faced bends. I have driven through mountains like this before, so it was nothing new. The roads are windy and run along many beautiful cliff drops; so if you get car sick or are afraid of heights, you may want to reconsider, close your eyes or take motion sickness medicine.

All I want is an open heart and an open road…

— Saint Mary’s Lake —

At the end of our drive along the “Going to the Sun Road” was Saint Mary’s Lake. Since we were visiting during Covid-19, the road did not continue to the east entrance and had blockades. That was fine because this is where we got out and pulled out our packed lunches.

There are different turn outs and trails around Saint Mary’s Lake and depending on how much time you have, you could spend a good amount of time here. My friend and I were more vehicle oriented that day, so we pulled our car over several times, breathed in the beautiful air and took photos until we got the main picnic area.

I highly suggest packing a cooler with food and beverages for your drive along the “Going to the Sun” Road. If you are a hiker and doing the trails, then you know the drill. If not, be prepared and logical about your visit to the park. There are a couple of places to eat inside the park but do not rely on those places considering there will be thousands of people who have the same idea. A picnic lunch will not only give you more time but you can enjoy your meal relaxing in nature.

Road tripping and picnic lunches. Life is good, very good!

For more park information and fees, please visit their website- Glacier National Park

_________

I’m not lost. I’m exploring …

Yours Truly at Glacier National Park

🌎 Thank you for visiting my website and NEVER STOP EXPLORING!

📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre

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